Panic Mode Hits as Heating Costs Rise

1,000 New Applicants Seek Fuel Assistance in the Berkshires — The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD — With the increase in utility prices and the general rate of inflation, more folks are seeking aid to pay for heat and power through the LIHEAP program administered in Berkshire County by the Berkshire Community Action Council.

As of Tuesday, 7,457 people had applied for the council’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, said Tammy Biagini, its director.

Of that number, 4,991 were eligible for assistance. The number of new applicants doubled from last year, coming in at 1,060, so far. And the pace of applications has been brisk, Biagini said.

“People are in panic mode,” she said. “They’re coming in like gangbusters.”

The deadline to apply for energy assistance is April 30.

The maximum benefit level, which applies to households at the poverty level, is $2,400. The poverty level for a household of one person is an annual income of $13,590.

For those with higher income, the benefit shrinks. According to the 2023 income guidelines, a household of four would qualify for LIHEAP with an income of $81,561 or less. A household of eight would qualify with an income of $112,554 or less.

LIHEAP will pay to help with natural gas heat, electric heat, and deliverable fuels such as heating oil, kerosene, propane, firewood, coal and wood pellets.